Parents of small children sometimes feel bewildered. They
start off as parents of one child and suddenly, before they
can come to terms with the birth of their eldest, they are
already parents to his siblings.
Young parents, without any experience, especially those coming
from families where they didn't have to help with younger
children, feel that the load on their shoulders is
overwhelming. These parents find it difficult to care for
their children and are in need of help, of a listening ear and
also practical assistance. But then, all beginnings are hard,
and over the years, the load gets lighter and the problems
become easier to handle.
The children grow up, the parents gain confidence and
experience and then, suddenly, the eldest becomes a teenager --
a well developed young person who suddenly questions all the
conventions which were until now accepted, and proceeds to
undermine them. How does this revolution take place and what
can be done about it?
1. Accept the fact that the child is growing up
A young child accepts things as they are and doesn't ask too
many questions. He doesn't look for things above and beyond.
"If Mother says so," he reasons, "she probably knows." But an
adolescent is different than a young child. He is already big
and feels big. He knows and he understands (maybe even better
than his parents...).
It is from this inner feeling of the adolescent that the era
of arguments and shouting begins. Teenagers argue passionately
about everything. Some of the things they argue about may seem
silly or absurd to the parents but the adolescent will see
them as top priority and remain stubborn about these issues.
In this stage, the young person who feels intelligent is sure
that he knows it all. He is impressed by what he hears, and
attracted by certain friends. He doesn't check things out too
much. He acts without thinking too much and changes his mind
Do we have to dance to his tune?
Well, this is the time to learn to accept our fellowman (if we
haven't yet learned this): is he doing something legitimate,
even though it doesn't always please us, or are those things
unacceptable in our home? If we judge each case in itself, we
will discover that it doesn't pay to be stubborn about
everything, nor would we be right every time. After all, our
child who is maturing also has a personality of his own, with
his own desires and point of view, and it is impossible for
every member of the family to think the same way.
If we can learn to judge each argument for itself and stay
away from unnecessary disputes, there will be fewer squabbles
and more peace between ourselves and our adolescents.
2. Children want parents with authority
Every child wants his parent to be an authoritative figure. A
parent who lacks authority will be looked down upon by his
children. Such a parent causes the child to feel a lack of
security in his presence. Adolescents, with all their desire
for independence, need a strong parent figure. Deep inside,
the young adult has no wish at all for the parent to lean on
him, give in to all his demands, or agree with all his ideas.
If this were to be so, the teenageer would feel like an orphan
who has no one to lean on or to count on. He wants parents who
understand, parents who care what he thinks, and pay attention
to what he says, and who, in general, accept the fact that he
has his own way of looking at things.
Bearing all this in mind, he still needs authoritative
parents, on whose word he can count, and whose wishes he has
to respect. We have to listen to our children and at the same
time be firm and adult in our outlook.
3. Understanding the adolescent's feelings
Teenagers are not all made from the same mold. Some are very
stubborn and extremely anti, and others will go through
adolescence rather calmly. Parents have to remember that the
adolescent stage is an unstable one, that stability comes
after it, if they let their children check things out for
themselves, make up their own minds and take on responsiblity
for their actions.
In order for a teenager to learn from the results of his
actions, we have to give him the opportunity to act and to
understand his needs, but not to give in on everything. And
not to be afraid of his reaction. Adolsescent's reactions tend
to be extreme. If the parent made a descision after thinking
clearly and carefully, he should not be afraid of his child's
reaction. The adolescent is allowed to get angry when the
parent's decision doesn't please him; he is allowed to be
upset and disappointed, and he is even allowed to lock himself
in his room until he calms down. All within the bounds of
basic parental respect.
4. Using cooperation and advice as tools
Teenagers, who are in reality mini-adults, don't like being
told what to do. They like to be consulted and included in the
decison-making. Similarly, as younger children get older, they
don't like getting orders from higher up. Sometimes there is
no end to these directives, but in the case of adolescents, it
would be better for everyone if they could participate
Of course, it's always better to prepare ourselves and use
preventive medicine, especially in the case of teens. Let us
not wait until the last minute -- until our daughter is all
dressed up and ready to leave for the party we wouldn't want
her to attend. Or until our son is leaving for an overnight
trip to the Golan. It is better to discuss it all first, way
before the crucial time, during a calm moment when no one is
upset or tense.
Educating our children demands much investment and endless
effort. If we do this with the realization that no endeavor is
without recompense, we'll continue to invest, while at the
same time remembering that "It's not up to us to finish the